Kindness of strangers

Well, friends, the PCT can dish. it. out. Tuesday night was definitely the worst night I’ve ever spent outdoors. Camped high on a ridge and enjoyed 12 solid hours of 50 mph winds and horizontal rain. Drifts of dirt were constantly blowing in through the tent doors. Both tent lines snapped just before midnight and I spent the next 5 hours propping up the tent with my back and feet. Just before dawn I gave up entirely and just packed up in the middle of the storm and started walking.

Around 9 am the sun began breaking through the blowing mist. With a broken tent, filthy wet gear, and nagging pain in my Achilles from starting out too fast (rookie mistake!), I decided it was time for some civilization. Sadly, this would mean parting ways with Tim, my consistent hiking buddy for the last 60 miles. I gave him my remaining two Snickers bars and the rest of my water and hopped off the PCT at a trailhead just outside the tiny town of Julian (famous for pie!).

Still smiling even though I was chilled through at this moment and had been hiking steadily for 4 hrs on no sleep and no breakfast.

On the side of the road I met Richard, (retired criminal defense attorney from Baltimore) looking equally beat up and bedraggled. Richard would proceed to help me secure my first hitch, buy me a cup of coffee and convince another hiker (Tyler) to split lodging with us.

Richard and his hiking buddy Natty Light met on the Appalachian Trail last year. There’s a spectrum out here of hikers intent on mileage (and mildly competitive about it) and those that are more here for the overall experience. These two new friends definitely seem to be in the latter camp. It’s been a nice change of pace.

In my research I heard over and over that the trail would restore my faith in human kindness. Not even 100 miles in and I have to agree. In the last day, I’ve been gifted two rides, a slice of pie, two cups of coffee, a pair of insoles, ice cream, a Natty Light (true to his name), and a new tent line.

I’m frustrated with the injury and rest days feel somehow like falling behind but I’m hoping a conservative approach to the Achilles issue will pay off down the road.

Hiker Tyler gave me the insoles above. Men’s, and giant, but I’ve trimmed them down with my tiny pocket knife scissors and I think they’re going to work out.

This is definitely the first low of the trail but there have been moments of joy too. Tuesday morning was my first 10x10 (10 miles before 10 am) and it was perfectly clear with a fingernail moon and pink sunrise.

Please send good wishes to my Achilles! Onward tomorrow!